I was aware that this was the afternoon that LSU would be playing Alabama in Baton Rouge and, even if I had not been, certainly all the passing SUVs with tiger tails attached to their antennas would have been a reminder. It was a Saturday back in 2008. I just had not expected the traffic to be building up so early that morning. I thought I would be going through Baton Rouge in the window of time between the tailgaters, who had probably been on the road by dawn, and the non-tailgaters, who had no reason to sit in the sun for an extra two hours before kickoff. But my estimation was wrong. Seemingly everyone was in a hurry to get to Baton Rouge that day as though they needed to stand in the shadow of Tiger Stadium while getting their game faces ready.
By the time I crossed into East Baton Rouge Parish traffic had slowed to a creep. By the Bluebonnet exit other arteries were feeding traffic to the already clogged interstate.
For the next 20 minutes or so I inched along. If the vehicles on the interstate had been an IQ test I would have been the one that did not belong in the group. Here I was heading for Marksville on the day when everyone else was gong to Baton Rouge.
But then something extraordinary happened. Suddenly I could hear approaching police sirens forcing traffic from the left lane into the middle lane where I was. Moments later a police escort whizzed by followed by buses moving at high speed. What was this prized cargo given the prerogative of having a lane to itself? It was, I realized, the Alabama football team.
As the team buses rumbled by I had an impish thought. What if I would maintain my pace in the middle lane until the last bus passed and then swing into the left lane to follow the fast moving busses through town?
That’s what I did and it worked perfectly. Way up front in this caravan I envisioned Alabama coach Nick Saban sitting in the first seat not realizing the opportunities he was creating behind the caboose.
I sped behind the team buses across Baton Rouge as far as the Dalrymple Drive exit where the busses turned off, but so too did the game traffic. From there on I was facing an open field.
I was so please with myself was I that I called the sports talk show I had been listening to and told the radio guys what I had just done. One of them summarized it perfectly: “You were like a fullback with the Alabama line blocking for you down the field!” Exactly. And Nick Saban was leading the way.
By the time I was driving back that evening the game was still being played so traffic was no problem. From the high-rise that crosses the river Tiger stadium could be seen glowing to the right.
Beneath those lights a thriller was taking place. There was already an edge to the game because of Saban’s return to Baton Rouge as a visiting coach. Through four Quarters two long-time rival schools battled it out, only to go into overtime. The Tigers were valiant against the favored Crimson Tide, but lost in a heartbreaker, 27-21.
By the time the game ended I was past Gramercy heading east. Soon the Alabama busses would be back on the interstate. I owed Nick Saban a favor, but, no – he would have to find his own blocking.